It wasn’t long ago that the Arundel baseball team stood at 5-5 overall – a mere 2-4 in county play – with a tough schedule ahead and a long road to climb in search of top playoff positioning.
With the warming weather came a change in fortune for the Wildcats. As of May 5 Arundel has won nine straight games to improve to 13-5 overall, 11-4 in county, and built considerable momentum as the playoffs draw near.
“I think our confidence is really high,” said centerfielder Syeed Mahdi, whose three-run, go-ahead homer against Broadneck on May 1 was the critical play in the Wildcats’ 5-2 win. “We practice hard, so therefore we play hard.”
The wins have been alternately dominant and dramatic. On April 17, Will O’Hara’s 12th-inning home run gave Arundel the win over county-best North County (15-3 as of May 5). On April 27, the Wildcats avenged an 11-1 loss to South River in the season opener by topping the Seahawks 4-2 on a stellar pitching effort from Steven Ghiardi and RBIs by Josh Gall, Mike Heverling, David Martin and AJ Robinson. The win over Broadneck, powered by Mahdi’s homer and a complete game from Cooper Hibbs, avenged a 3-2 loss to the Bruins on April 5.
Head Coach Jason Lively says the team’s pitching and defense has allowed them to dig out close, low-scoring games when the bats aren’t hot.
“We preach all the time that our pitching and defense is going to keep us in games,” said Lively after the win over Broadneck, which saw the Wildcats get hits from Hibbs, Mahdi, O’Hara, Ethan Plummer and Kyle Brandt in a five-run fifth inning that sank the Bruins. “We did enough to win today, but we can absolutely improve. We don’t want to plateau now.”
Not to say the Wildcats haven’t tagged some opposing pitchers during the streak. Arundel battered Glen Burnie, Northeast and Meade by 8-0, 9-0 and 9-5 scores, respectively, and have the proven ability to put runs on the board.
Still, Lively knows his players – both starters and reserves – have to stay hungry, as anyone may be counted on to make a game-turning play.
“Guys stepping up, that’s the name of the game,” Lively said. “If one person’s not stepping up, next guy go ahead and do it. Fortunately for us we are a talented team, and we have a lot of talent on our bench that will step in and make a play for us.”
Hibbs, like his teammates, is maintaining the day-by-day intensity as the Wildcats pursue a path through the region and a return to the state tournament.
“We know we have the ability to [get back to the state championship],” said Hibbs. “We know it’s going to be a hard, hard road, just like it was last year, so we’re trying to fight every single day for it.”